Healthy Eating and Nutrition Advice For Your Kids

SPONSORED: The world of healthy eating can be a minefield and sometimes it's tough to make the right choices for your kids, but we're here to help! We recently sat down with our resident GP Dr. Ciara Joyce to discuss all things healthy eating. 

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The world of healthy eating can be a minefield.
We know that children need vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. However, knowing exactly what nutrients and how much they need of each is not always easy. 
We sat down with our resident GP Dr. Ciara Joyce to discuss all things healthy eating. Ciara has been working as a GP for the past seven years, she is a mother to baby Izzi (10 months) and is also expecting her second child.
What is the best way to introduce healthy food into your child’s diet?
I would recommend starting to introduce healthy food into your child’s diet as early as possible, as it’s much harder to start later.
Fruit is much easier to introduce than vegetables, and I always find you can’t go wrong with pureed apple or pear added to some baby rice.
Vegetables can be a lot trickier to introduce, but I find that most babies absolutely love sweet potato, as well as mashed up peas.
Once babies get used to new tastes, sources of protein can also be added to try to give them a good, balanced, healthy diet.
What are the benefits of your child eating healthy unprocessed foods?
By eating healthy, unprocessed food, your child will receive a lot more nutrients and a lot less sugar.
There is a lot of hidden sugar in processed foods. In some pouches of processed fruit, there can be up to 17g of sugar, which is more than a can of coke!
By feeding your child fresh food, you will significantly reduce the amount of sugar they consume, as well as maximising the vitamins and nutrients they take in as these can be lost by processing.
With the rise of childhood obesity in Ireland, what is the best way parents can combat this?
The best piece of advice I can give is that if your child has never had sweets and treats, they won’t look for them.
Try and avoid giving your child juices & smoothies, and stick with water. If you do choose to give your child treats, try to limit them to once a week.
Make healthy choices fun for your children, whether that’s making ice pops from pureed fruit together or introducing a star chart, where children earn stars for choosing healthy options.
How do I know if my child lacks in certain vitamins and nutrients?
Most children under the age of one are deficient in iron, but thankfully this is usually corrected over time as their diet becomes more varied & balanced. However, I would recommend introducing red meat or other foods high in iron into your child’s diet before they turn one.
Your child should eat their ‘fist-size’ in red meat per week. An easy way to do this is to cook up a batch of good-quality mince and make a simple Bolognese or Shepherd’s pie, which can be divided into small portions and frozen.
Parents are advised to give all babies Vitamin D drops until the age of one in order to form strong bones and prevent conditions such as rickets in children & osteomalacia in adults.
B Vitamins are very important for brain development & vision, as well as to help cells release energy, and to help prevent anaemia.
If your child is deficient in Vitamin C, they may develop sores around the mouth, or gum issues, and cuts & bruises may take longer to heal. The easiest way to combat this is to include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet along with grains, fish & meat.
Do you have any tips on how to deal with a child who has a small appetite?
My main tip would be to offer your child small meals often throughout the day rather than big meals in order to try to meet their nutritional requirements.
This could mean that they are having 5-6 smaller meals per day. If there are obvious deficits in some nutrients, it may be a good idea to introduce a multivitamin to fill the gaps.
It is important to remember that every child is different. While your child is young, don’t be too worried about this, as sometimes trying to force your child to eat can make matters worse. Just try to give them lots of any healthy foods that they enjoy eating.

For more on healthy eating check out Lidl's website for lots of healthy eating recipes. For more from Dr.Ciara take a look at her Ask The GP takeover over on our Instagram highlights. 

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